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Jews in the Russian Empire

Alexander II - A Brief Spring


The banker Baron
Horace Ginzburg...



The Great Synagogue
of St. Petersburg...



The "Jews Walk" in Odessa...



"Football in the Jews' Market..."



The family of Jozef and Dora Hirszowicz...



A prayer service...


THE REIGN OF ALEXANDER II brings fundamental changes for the Russian society at large, notably the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. For Russian Jews, it marks a period of great expectations now that the most oppressive measures are relaxed. On the first anniversary of Alexander's coronation the hated Cantonist system is repealed. Bit by bit, small groups of Jews considered "useful" are allowed to settle outside the Pale: merchants, medical doctors and artisans.

The Jewish communities of St. Petersburg, Moscow and Odessa grow rapidly, and Jews start to participate in the intellectual and cultural life. The industrial development of the 1860s, following the disastrous Crimean War, creates opportunities for a small group of Jewish entrepreneurs, particularly in banking and the export trade, in mining and in the construction of railroads.

But the sudden appearance of Jewish lawyers, journalists and entrepreneurs causes a sharp reaction. After the suppression of the Polish uprising in 1863, the position of all minorities in Russia is weakened, and the movement for Jewish emancipation suffers a serious setback. Anti-Semitic agitation, expressed in newspapers like Novoye Vremya, increases after a wave of Slavophile nationalism in the 1870s. Jews are accused of forming "a state within the state" and seen as aliens trying to dominate Russia. Even the old myth of the Blood Libel, outlawed by Alexander I in 1817, is brought to life again in Kutais in 1878.



Three generations of
the Szabad family...



Ha Melits ("The Advocate")...


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